FIFA, Brand Strategy and the March of Inevitability

Last week, I was contacted by a leading national newspaper and asked my opinion on FIFA. Or rather, how FIFA being shoved in front of the media grand jury would impact global sponsors like Coke.

My thoughts were, in essence, don’t dump old friends just because they’ve done something bad. At the same time, give them the tough love that will get them back on the road to being decent global citizens. In this case, that would mean Coke telling FIFA to clean up the corruption, send the crooked leaders packing, and engage an objective third party to ensure future proceedings were above board.

You may argue my thinking was hopelessly naïve. After all, one of the reasons FIFA ventures into places like Africa and Russia is because the sponsors want to extend their market reach. Having discussed the issue with a number of sports marketing specialists since giving my interview, I feel fairly confident saying the sponsors knew exactly what was going on with Sepp & Co.

The FIFA scandal is, for champions of sustainability, a global teachable moment.

What all this means, of course, is that things are going to get very interesting in the FIFA-dom. I see layer upon layer of rotten behaviour being exposed, the dragnet extending not just to the top of FIFA, but outward to enmesh sponsors as well. As the movie says, there will be blood.

This, my friends, is what they call a global teachable moment.

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Let’s charge into the breach.

In the world of sustainable business, getting a company to clean up its unethical, unsustainable practices is as old as Moses. It simply isn’t newsworthy anymore.

This is a good thing. As leaders like Nike, Unilever and Wal-Mart have demonstrated, a company can do very, very well while still behaving like a responsible global citizen.

Now would be the time for these companies (and all us small folk who in some way helped them along) to step forward and show the world how a good organization behaves.

It’s time that we show the soccer world how a good organization behaves.

Not only would it offer soccer fans around the world ammunition in the face of ‘don’t upset the applecart’ tactics FIFA will surely employ to hang onto the status quo. It would also provide some incredible visibility to the global movement for sustainable business.

FIFA has the headlines now. I have no doubt FIFA will continue to make the headlines as its cartoon dictatorship keeps rattling sabres from the burning ramparts. Jeez people, it’s like they’re giving us a slow pitch right over the plate. If we can’t use this opportunity to show the world that a better, more ethical and sustainable way of doing business is possible and desirable, we have only ourselves to blame.

Help FIFA out. Share your brand strategy.

Here’s what I suggest.

Keep studying the headlines. When you see a FIFA story where you can offer tips on sustainable brand strategy might help, by all means suggest it. Ditto for all you NGO’s who might be able to help FIFA monitor its behaviour. Ditto for supply chain specialists, and global strategists of all stripes.

Add your thoughts to the comments section of the newspaper. Map out the steps you took to build a more sustainable business in blog posts. Get some radio talk show time. I can vouch for the media’s voracious appetite on this subject – why shouldn’t folks fighting the good fight be in the spotlight?

Let me know how it goes.

I love studying how brands futureproof themselves. I wrote a book on it. I speak on the subject from coast to coast. Heck, I even have a methodology for helping companies build brands resilient enough to thrive in our turbulent times.

I’m dying to know how this one shakes out. I have my thoughts, but I’ll keep them to myself. What I want is to hear from you. What advice would you offer to FIFA? Have you contacted the media with your thoughts? How were you received?

Let’s start a media movement, using the FIFA scandal to catapult sustainability into the spotlight.

My fairly transparent motive is to start a movement that uses the FIFA scandal to catapult responsible company strategy into the spotlight.

And when the next FIFA-esque scandal erupts, to do it all over again.

We’ve been through this trial by fire. We’ve built better companies because of it. It’s time to let the world know.

This story first appeared in Triple Pundit June 2, 2015

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